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Rocky Road Ice Cream: Embracing Variety, Scoop by Scoop

2023-06-29   ◆   4 minutes read

Rocky Road ice cream is undoubtedly a timeless, iconic superstar and a pioneer in including “mix-in” materials in ice cream, paving the way for numerous variations and imitations. 

Contrary to its sweet taste, there is a history nestled between scoops of this ice cream which is intertwined with hardship. Born during an economically challenging time, Rocky Road emerged as more than a delectable dessert. It represented a momentary break in which people could share joy amidst adversity.

In this blog post, we will explore this beloved ice cream’s possible origins and look at it as a reminder of the remarkable synergy that can emerge when diverse ingredients come together, showcasing their unique individual qualities while creating something truly extraordinary as a whole.

Home made Rocky Road Ice Cream (brown eyed baker)
Home-made Rocky Road Ice Cream (brown eyed baker)

What Makes a Rocky Road Ice Cream?

The ice cream has borrowed its name from a classic candy bar with the same qualities. The chocolate base serves as the foundation for the entire dessert. The intensity of the chocolate also adds depth and complexity to the taste and creates a harmonious balance with the other ingredients, forming the backbone of the flavour profile.

To elevate the sensory experience, the frozen dessert generously incorporates crunchy almonds into its creamy landscape. The almonds provide a textural contrast to the smoothness of the chocolate base, enhancing the overall mouthfeel of the ice cream. Beyond texture, the almonds bring their distinct nutty flavour, lending a subtle earthiness to the mix that complements the richness of the chocolate. 

But the inclusion of fluffy marshmallows is where this ice cream truly shines. These delicate, pillowy morsels contribute a whimsical touch to the frozen treat. With their light and airy texture, marshmallows’ melt-in-your-mouth quality creates yet another delightful contrast to the dense and creamy chocolate base and the crunchy almonds. 

Overall, the interplay between the soft marshmallows, creamy chocolate, and crunchy almonds creates a symphony of textures and flavours that is both satisfying and irresistible, resulting in a multi-dimensional taste experience that tantalizes our taste buds. 

While some companies have experimented with additional elements, like different nuts, fruits, or toppings, the original recipe remains the most popular among ice cream enthusiasts. But where did the idea come from?


The Great Depression: A Shaping Force or Just the Context?

Rocky Road was born during the Great Depression, a profound economic disaster spanning from 1929 to 1939 that shook multiple countries around the globe. It was marked by the Wall Street stock market crash and followed a significant decline in stock prices in the United States, with far-reaching consequences beyond the US. It represents the most prolonged, profound, and far-reaching economic depression of the 20th century. 

The true tragedy of the Great Depression lies in the immense human suffering it caused. In a short period, standards of living experienced a sharp decline. During the early 1930s, approximately one-fourth of the labour force in industrialized nations lost their jobs and were unable to secure work. This widespread unemployment created many hardships and challenges for countless individuals and their families.

But amid all that hardship, just by mixing different ingredients, a frozen treat emerged that created a chance for sharing smiles. How exactly? The answer lies somewhere between two closely related stories that happened around the same time, in the same location, inspired by or simply coinciding with the Great Depression.

Dreyer’s original Flavour (Dreyer’s Ice Cream)
Dreyer’s original Flavour (Dreyer’s Ice Cream)

Dreyer’s Story

On the one hand, we have Dreyer’s, a well-established brand founded by Ice cream maker William Dreyer and candy maker Joseph Edy in Oakland, California, United States. They created Dreyer’s and Edy’s Ice Cream in partnership, which later grew into a huge ice cream business.

Dreyer’s says on its website that as the Great Depression hit, William and Joseph wanted to create a unique new flavour to put a smile on people’s faces, despite the hardship caused by the Depression, which left the country in bad shape. 

So, to cheer people up, they mixed rich chocolate ice cream, crunchy almonds, and chewy marshmallows to create something new that could bring smiles back to people’s faces. And there you have it: Rocky Road ice cream!

Fentons’ menu image of the frozen treat (Fentons)
Fentons’ menu image of the frozen treat (Fentons)

Fentons’ Story

On the other hand, we have the Fentons Creamery, a 129-year-old establishment located in Oakland, California, United States. Fentons’ story goes that in 1929 the creamery employed a candymaker named George Farren (who was also friends with Dreyer and Edy in the ice cream and candy business), and it was Farren who blended a nuts and marshmallows candy bar into a batch of ice cream, inventing a brand-new flavour and the whole concept of mix-ins. 

No matter who came up with the idea first or what the origin story behind it is, we are truly grateful to Dreyer, Edy, Farren, and anyone or anything that has been involved in creating this heavenly ice cream. Their contributions have gifted us with a beloved flavour that continues to bring joy and delight to people worldwide.

Rocky Road Ice Cream Pie (this delicious house)
Rocky Road Ice Cream Pie (this delicious house)

What Makes It Such a Big Deal?

When we talk about the invention of the rocky road ice cream, we are talking about a time when chocolate, vanilla & strawberry were the only options available! The new flavour made waves in the ice cream world because it freed everybody from the traditional trio. By incorporating diverse textures and ingredients, this ice cream flavour opened up a new realm of possibilities for future ice cream creations. 

Soon after its debut, the popularity spread to ice cream shops and dairies. Its impact was so profound that even renowned singer Weird Al Yankovic expressed his love for the flavour through his parody song “I Love Rocky Road” in 1983, further cementing its cultural significance.

Even today, the timeless classic holds a special place in the hearts of ice cream enthusiasts. It consistently secures a spot in the top 10 lists of ice cream rankings and contests year after year. 


Mix-In Ice Cream as a Symbol of Inclusion and Diversity

Rocky Road ice cream, with its delightful medley of textures and tastes, is more than just a tempting treat for our taste buds. It embodies an example of how a diverse array of ingredients with different qualities can come together and create something extraordinary, with each component contributing its unique flavour and texture to the whole.

Like the Rocky Road concept, our society should embrace and celebrate diversity to thrive. The secret ingredient that can enrich our communities, bringing together people from different cultures and backgrounds with diverse perspectives, is inclusion. It is through inclusivity that we can shape new experiences and ideas, fostering innovation, creativity, and understanding.

The beauty of inclusion lies in its power to dissolve barriers and replace them with a sense of belonging. It aims to create spaces where everyone can bring their authentic selves to the table, voices are heard, and differences are valued. In an inclusive society, it is appreciated that each person has a unique story to tell.

Population Diversity in Canada (ca political)
Population Diversity in Canada (ca-political)

Inclusion and Diversity in Canada

Canada has become a shining example of how a nation can successfully implement inclusion and celebrate diversity. With its rich cultural mosaic and commitment to equality, the country has made a thriving society that values and respects individuals from all walks of life. Canada’s success in this regard stems from the following:

  • Strong legal framework and policies that promote inclusivity: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. 
  • Various initiatives to promote inclusion and diversity: Efforts have been made to ensure diversity in politics, public service, and corporate leadership, recognizing the value of different perspectives in decision-making processes.
  • Strong emphasis on inclusive education practices: Canadian schools and universities often incorporate multicultural curricula and foster an environment that celebrates different cultures, languages, and traditions.
  • Commitment to welcoming newcomers: The country’s robust immigration policies prioritize family reunification, skilled workers, and refugees in need of protection. Newcomers are provided with support and resources to facilitate their integration into Canadian society. By 2036, immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population, compared with 20.7% in 2011.
  • Multicultural neighborhoods and vibrant communities in Canadian cities: Canadians take pride in celebrating diversity through various cultural festivals and events that showcase the traditions and contributions of different ethnic and cultural groups throughout multicultural neighborhoods and vibrant communities. Over 200 ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 National Household Survey, 13 of which surpassed the one million population mark.

It is important to note that inclusion is not a one-time effort. It calls upon us to challenge biases, dismantle systemic barriers, and actively seek opportunities to uplift marginalized voices. It requires us to create environments that foster equality and provide access to resources and opportunities for all.

Throughout the challenging times of the Great Depression and beyond, Rocky Road ice cream has remained a cherished treat, holding a special place in our hearts. Let’s enjoy this iconic ice cream as a “mix-in” sweet reminder of what each and every one of us can bring to the table to help make a better world. By nurturing a culture of acceptance and respect, we hold the power to create a vibrant and thriving society and continue to share smiles, even in the face of rocky roads ahead.

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About the author is an organization dedicated to the research of desserts, baked goods, and snacks. The community maintains one of the largest databases of dessert items and dessert places in Canada. 


With a mission to facilitate foodies’ search for their desired products, the site allows finding locations that dessert items are sold at, enhances knowledge on various treats (i.e., variety, flavours, health benefits, history, origins, etc.), and enables people to enjoy the wealth of life. is a proud member of the BBB Business Review


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